The Witch Bridle

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Chapter 57

They returned to the deep sheltered harbor of Salem Town, the colonial success story since the sixteen forties. There colonists thrived on maritime trading in fish and timber. Inland the yeomen raised cattle and harvested corn, and the people enjoyed a modest existence in a wilderness 25 miles from Boston. And history only remembers the witches.

”Can we go to the House of the Seven Gables?” Louis asked Oona with a smile. The young one had been quiet since the hanging, and his timing was impeccable.

Oona was pleased to hear Louis’ voice. “Sure, that is if it is built,” she smiled at him. Her teeth gleamed in the morning light.

“It is, Oona,” Louis said. “The House was built in 1668. Really.”

Oona smirked. The boy was not only smart; he had saved the mission. They walked on and found their way to the “Gables” house. It really is here! Then Oona led the way to a harbor side tavern where they dined on fish and carrots, turnips, and squash before their intended bay voyage to Plymouth. They seem to have avoided all suspicion. Oona was content, exhausted, and in no hurry to conclude her stay in early Colonial America. Still she would do everything she could to bring Louis back safely. At the same time she dreaded their attempted return trip to the present. “What if we failed?” she thought. And haunted by that prospect, Oona might never know if their actions rendered Lucia’s entry into the twenty-first century as never having happened.

“If Lucia is gone when I return, will she ever have been there?” Oona needed to stitch her torn fingers. Oona scanned the harbor stalls for a needle and thread.

Louis nodded sheepishly and kept pace with Oona’s casual stride.

“After six days we have managed to alter a small slice of the Past. Have we also altered other life events connected thereto?”

“I dunno,” offered Louis.

“Hopefully we will never notice. And, will our small action remove everything that ever happened since the prophetess first came through?”

Louis raised his eyes to her and softly shrugged. He honestly had nothing to say.

A moment later the young boy chirped, “Hey Oona: Do you think we can stay in the Past for a little while longer?”

“What did you think we were doing? Flying back? On a broomstick?”

“You know what I mean. Why not? It’s like we’ll probably never have another chance to do it. It’s like an experience we will probably never have again.”

“Yes, Louis, and we still have plenty of time in the Past. We need to go to Plymouth next; you know that. Then we shall walk west back to Westbridge. I believe you can live your dream for at least another eight days, Louis.” She smiled, and ordered an ale.

“I meant like…a year.”


“Oh, come on: let’s stay for a while, as long as we have some money and can live kinda openly, and really suck it up…like school.”

“No, Louis. Trust me: eight more days will be plenty of time. Your mother and sister will be at the house in eight days and then we shall try to go home. And surely you miss your mom and everyone back home?”

“What if we don’t make it?”

With Dutch guilders and a little charm, Oona and Louis boarded a ship, one of many that lined the wharves of Salem, and settled for a three-masted caravel. The good ship Golden Root was reminiscent of the Nina or the Pinta, and it undoubtedly pre-dated the Mayflower.

Golden Root left the harbor at high tide, about noon, for a short sea voyage from Salem to Plymouth Town via Scituate. The vessel survived by achieving its intended purpose, and sailed safely and strong with surprising speed and seaworthiness, until well past dusk.

Oona retired to the captain’s quarters early in the voyage and during which time her glans clitoridis was worked mercilessly. On board, Louis saw all around him small open boats mixed among larger sailing ships. He noticed the long South Shore coastline dotted with colorful buoys and still unchanged in many ways. With its mix of rocky shore lines and sandy beaches, places like Brant Rock were known from the modern day times Louis had spent on Massachusetts Bay. And though Louis “could not speak,” there was a wide perception among the small crew and few passengers on board that the deaf and dumb boy was actually quite astute and could even “read lips.” Young Louis made more than a few friends.

“Shallowing fast,” called the yeoman, as Golden Root first called on Scituate Harbor. There they unloaded its orders of desired goods before the ship sailed on and moored in Plymouth that evening. At about ten knots the sea voyage took about seven hours, 70 miles distant.

Once Oona and Louis were ashore in Plymouth, the pair visited the local Harbor Side Tavern. With their mission accomplished, there was still much which remained ahead. Oona tipped some serious ale while Louis enjoyed a “sea food special” of mixed fish and lobster and what was apparently hard cider. The law of the time said that no person should be in a tavern longer than was necessary, and with those words from a spurned would-be suitor and tavern keeper, Oona and the boy left the Harbor Side and stepped into a moonless night. The good witch carried tremendous anxiety over their presumed return trip.

The pair slept close together on the beach near the harbor, atop two woolen blankets that had survived the journey so far. They rose with the sun which warmed their tired bodies; from its golden rays that evenly dispersed across the waters of Plymouth Bay. In only the time it took to pack up their things, they started on their way.

“There is really no hurry,” Oona said. “If all goes as planned, your mother and sister will successfully return Pi Gran Liv to the place in my room where it was left. When we left it was 1AM local time, which was really midnight, standard time.” Oona sounded for the moment as if she were an elementary school teacher.

“So the Past lives in ‘standard time’?” Louis asked innocently.

“Uh, yes,” she agreed conflictingly. “Yes, although standard time is an invention of modernity.”

“Okay,” he agreed, though not entirely clear of what had just been said.

“And we must return to the present at midnight, standard time. I told your mom to give me – us really – two weeks to return home. And that is –”

“I know; give me a minute Oona,” said Louis. “It’s, um, April ninth! Midnight April ninth!”

“Yes, sir, that is correct,” she smiled warmly. “So Louis: that will leave us how many days to get to Westbridge …where we landed?”

“That’d be nine days?”

“Eight really. But yes, I told you we would have plenty of time here…in the Past.”

“Nobody’ll ever believe me back home. So can we go to Plimouth Plantation?”

“We will see. For now my boy, we need a plan. Too much time can be as dangerous as being rushed with too little time. We must not stand out, Louis. Lingering anywhere with no apparent purpose will raise suspicion. I feel we got along well with no major threats on the way to Salem; now we must get back to ‘ancient’ Westbridge in the same manner.”

It was a pleasant morning walk along the Plymouth coastline. They stopped at times to rest their feet and admire the picturesque bay and the natural surroundings. It was clear with a strong sea breeze and about 50 degrees.

“There is danger from Indians and other hostiles,” Oona said flatly. “In fact, this may be the most dangerous part of our mission.”

The trails and paths from the beaches were all inviting. Still only one path could be picked at a time. Oona felt fortified and buoyant, though with sore feet and badly bruised, she was deeply troubled by the brutal damnation of the witch with her own hands. Now, after all they had done, Oona dismissed the journey back, only about 15 miles, but was now most terrified of the very real possibility that they would never see KC again.

“Why don’t we spend the weekend here in Plymouth?” she asked. “We’ll take in all the sites,” she added playfully. At midday we shall both have a nourishing seafood dinner.”

Louis was totally off-the-wall elated – beside himself with joy.

So Friday night they each had a hearty dinner of bass and bluefish.

Oona recalled Plymouth was always a small town. And after the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630, Plymouth’s population declined to where it stood at only 775 souls in 1692.

By the time they left Plymouth Town, they had replenished their supplies with a little money and a lot of persuasion. Oona charmed away a pair of strong shoes from a tradesman who gratefully paid Oona just to put them on her feet.

Louis seemed very okay and thoroughly enjoyed the period of carefree dirtiness. His feet were sore and his body itchy, and otherwise he totally basked in not showering. He dined on squid and unknown dishes that warmed his palate. Once it was Monday morning, the travelers left the tavern-inn for the return trip to Westbridge and, the boy hoped, the portal back to his mom.

They passed first into Kingston. There were mudflats closer to shore which gave way to beds of peat and drier, solid land in what was then known as the North Precinct of Plymouth. Kingston was a coastal community that gradually expanded west to Halifax, first settled in 1669. The area was rich with wildlife and tall eastern red columbines, which though not yet in bloom, displayed great leaves of bluish green. The pair stayed due west for the time being, and they trekked across the wide expanse of the former Plymouth Colony – its union with the Massachusetts Bay Colony chartered the Province of Massachusetts Bay only a few months earlier in 1691.

Woodland animals were never far away as they approached the Halifax settlement. With ample water supply and scant swampland, it would still be another 42 years before Halifax became the town in the heart of modern-day Plymouth County. They trudged by the east and west twin lakes of the deep and beautiful Monponsett Pond.

With the help of a looking glass which she picked up along the way, Oona observed the male settlers all carried arms. They were stark featured men in deerskin attire and rough clothes of somber colors. Women young and old wore simple robes with caps of white lace, hair tucked underneath or left in a low slung bun, and their children, boys and girls alike, dressed similarly in course gray robes. Those who lived out in the frontier settlements, which by this time loosely surrounded the former colony, cleared farmland and stacked firewood, and built an occasional log cabin or other manmade objects.

“It is difficult to accept that almost fifteen years after King Philip’s War, there is still plentiful evidence of houses burned by the Indians in the trouble.”

“A war?”

“Yes” she answered. “Tensions are still very high, even though there may be no big troubles with the Indians right now.” “We must beware of these times.”

So much is not known.

They passed an old gristmill built by one of the area’s first settlers, and they pitched camp on Wednesday, in peaceful privacy; they had drawn near enough to Westbridge to spend the night. Oona, though physically and emotionally weak, was heartened and felt nothing compared to the grueling battle against time that they waged to reach Salem. Within only a few miles lay Westbridge. Her next task was to find the portal, the marked spot where they landed, and worry about actually getting home later. With a long stick Oona marked the ground with an arrow in the direction of the North Star. Then she lay down for the night an arm’s length from Louis, and squirmed while their head and body lice thrived.

It had been nearly two weeks and KC never adequately prepared for such a long and anxious wait. Soon she would visit the house and (hopefully) join up with Thankful and Charley. KC knew she needed Thankful for the Book, but she also thought she could use a priest. KC was wary of the book, and was not even sure she had lucked out with the sanctity of the Church.

“You shall be blind to it,” she remembered Oona had told her. “If I have not killed Lucia in two weeks, you will know it once Gran Liv and the child are exposed. Be ready to flee.”

“So how will I know if Lucia has been defeated?” KC had asked her. “And when would any of this have been accomplished?”

And Oona had said, “If you are able to place Gran Liv where I left it, then it is highly likely I succeeded.”

When the time travelers rose on Thursday morning, the sun was already in full view. Within a few minutes, Oona and Louis were once again on their way, though this time was truly the last leg of their journey. Oona was more drained from their mission than was Louis. Oona traveled slowly and deliberately that morning. Louis was nervously carefree. And with the growing weight of uncertainty which hovered over their future; both shared in their sentiments.

“We must avoid people at all costs – any encounter, no matter how minor it seems, could destroy our chance to return home,” Oona said most definitively.

“What if we don’t make it, Oona?” Louis said with profound sadness.

“Well then, we shall have that long vacation here that you wanted so badly.” Oona forced a broad smile. “That is until we find the way.” She smiled down at Louis, and only half believed herself. “Have faith my boy.”

Morning was alive with the sounds of spring. The forest of deciduous and hardwood conifers was rich with woodpeckers and songbirds, red-winged blackbirds, cardinals and other birds. There were thickets of small trees and shrubs along the way, and buds now on nearly all the trees. Then suddenly, and as if out of nowhere, a man with a straw hat stood in their path.

“Whence cometh thee?” he said. The man wore a homespun coat with a tie-up shirt, black shoes and breeches, and was, no doubt, another seventeenth century farmer. Here was an old man with scant pity in his cold heart.

“My apologies kind sir, if this be your acreage.”

“Yes, hitherto,” was all he said. He glared at them through his thick cataracts.

“Kind Sir: We were waylaid along the way to return this deaf and dumb boy to his widowed mother in Boston.” The “deaf mute” boy had many widowed mothers: in Plymouth and Kingston, as well as in Salem and Boston. Oona studied the old farmer closely. “And though we stand before thee in rags, I assure you kind sir, we have sufficient credit and will gladly pay thee a small toll to cross your land.”

“Aye,” the farmer said and moved aside, his hand extended for a coin or two.

And they passed on to Westbridge early Thursday afternoon.

“How are we even gonna find the place?” Louis finally asked.

Oona shrugged her shoulders with a wry smile. Louis’ question was a very good one. Westbridge was a vast area of mostly uninhabited dense forest. She had pondered this very topic and one which required a creative solution.

“Quakers and Indians were run out of town long ago Louis,” she quipped. “Now there are only ‘the Pilgrims’. And since we should not mingle with those people,” Oona winced in dramatic fashion, “we shall ask the animals.” It had been a good day so far. Oona was ready for the final sprint and, while not exactly refreshed, they were both well ahead of schedule.

“Okay,” Louis said blankly. And they marched on through cow paths and trails. There was still plenty of daylight. And as best as Oona could focus, she matched their locations with what she knew of modern day Westbridge; in the midst of all the thick woodland a few landmarks survived. There were ponds and a river and streams, partitions of fieldstone walls at places which she painstakingly recognized – though fresher and stronger in their appearance – and eventually the pair arrived in an area from which they could see a familiar series of farmers’ fields.

“One of these fields contains the portal, I think,” Oona said. “It is getting dark, and in a bit I shall try a little mesmerism.”

The young boy, with his big blue eyes, smiled but as if he didn’t understand. Louis and Oona trudged along in a westerly direction along an unbroken chain of fieldstone walls and adjacent bramble. As the sky darkened, they came to a place where Oona reckoned they were within easy reach of their final target.

“We will leave this world at midnight Saturday.”

“Saturday?” he asked, and she immediately nodded.

“I thought it was tomorrow?” The boy stood confused. “Is that the beginning or the end of the day?”

“Another good question my boy,” smiled Oona. “Midnight occurs as the first moment in the new day, and which will be the first moment of Saturday.” She took a breath and added, “We have more than one full day to find the spot we marked.”

There was a clever porcupine amidst the lichened covered stones where he had likely basked all day. Oona motioned to Louis to prepare to lay out all their things for the night. Then she approached the small animal and placed herself in a hypnotic state, enveloped by her battered gray wool cape. With sufficient strength she imposed her supernatural will on the creature.

Friday morning came soon enough. A few hours later Oona’s mesmerism was evident when the same animal guided the pair along a series of fieldstone walls and finally to the bare stone surface they had marked nearly two weeks ago.

“Awesome!” said Louis. He could plainly see the smooth stone surrounded by smaller stones and a circle of mounded soil around that.

Oona’s throat was knotted; another huge milestone had been achieved.

“It’s kinda like the last day of vacation,” Louis said softly. Behind him, the hero porcupine sauntered on his way.

“Yes,” Oona said. This last day had been the worst for waiting. She imagined it was like a prisoner who waited on Death Row, as if every minute took an eternity…and an instant. “Louis: this is it! We shall see what happens at midnight tonight.”

“That’s a long way off Oona. Can we like walk around and see some more stuff,” Louis asked nervously. At midnight they would learn whether Louis would see his mother again.

“One of us must always keep this spot in clear view, boy. And both of us must stay in view of each other.” She looked tiredly and determinedly at her young companion. “The success of our journey, Louis, depends on this one place. So you can do a little touring but never lose sight of me. And remember: we must always remain inconspicuous.”

Nearby and invisible to the pair, Angry Indian awaited the right moment among the trees and rich evergreens of the old Plymouth Colony. He had followed them from a distance ever since the two had passed by his old, burned out Praying Town. And now he prepared to follow her into the well from which she sprung.

Disguised by nature, they hoped, Oona and Louis spent what they hoped would be their last day in 1692. The weather was clear; the sky was, once again, a particularly deep blue. They remained outside of the farmer’s field, and never lost sight of their point of departure. It had been a glorious day and one not to have been wasted. As darkness arrived, the day finally turned to night. The temperature ebbed quickly once the sun went down and an open fire was out of the question. Louis wrapped himself in a large brown blanket. Oona was wrapped similarly, and she most carefully removed the Time Trick notes she had sewn into her cape. And she listened and listened for something which finally arrived.

The hoot of an owl, presaged the stroke of midnight. Oona had, once again, put her animal magnetism to work and at the toll of the darkest moment of the night, the owl hooted it was so. And Oona took a deep breath. Oona smiled at him and began to read and incantate. She drew some articles from her woven basket.

And there was a sadness which Louis easily discerned. Louis stood behind Oona and waited nervously for the blueish gateway to appear.

Oona looked directly to Louis, who was wide awake, and she said, “This is midnight, Louis, and your mom will have placed Pi Gran Liv Magi where we left it. Follow me.”

As instructed, the boy of almost ten followed Oona into the portal. As he did he was shocked to see Angry Indian close behind him. Louis forced himself forward and it was all over in an instant.

At that very moment, Oona surmised the Angry Indian had followed them all along. He watched over us. He surely protected them and always had. And Oona knew there were many other angry Indians out there, decimated by disease and uprooted in so many ways by the English settlers. And things have only gotten worse. She saw behind him the Angry Indian turn to dust.

It was 1:01AM, Saturday. She could see it on her very own clock.

“We made it!” And she looked for Louis.

Gran Liv, the curse which made Lucia’s return possible, had also made their return possible and also seemed the solution to defeating Lucia. With quick glances around her bedroom, it seemed as though everything she owned had been disturbed. “This is not how I left this place.” There was never a doubt Lucia would have done something in her absence.

The Time Trick brought new challenges, the first of which was finding Louis. Sure enough he was there on the floor; he seemed okay. Having gotten to the place of conflict with the Evil One, having survived in a most unfamiliar environment, and then, now, finally return safely from the old New World of ages past.

“But,” she said. “Is it 1:01AM, Saturday April ninth, 2011?” That was the next question. Oona took her eyes from her beloved Book, and then from Louis. She realized then that the filthy lice had left them – apparently unsuitable for time travel – and then she saw KC.

“Asleep in my bed!” Oh, the imagery. And the child-witch Thankful was nearby on the floor. But there in her own bed was KC. Lovely. Oona would never forget that image. She lay down beside her and kissed her softly.

“When and how much time has actually elapsed from beginning to end, on both sides: past and present, can forever wait.” At that supreme moment, Oona did not care.

KC suddenly opened her hazel eyes and screamed! “Oona!” she yelped.

Oona nearly fell off the bed and realized just then that she had changed. Her hair was still full and luscious, as always, but from what she could see of it, her raven-black hair had turned snow white. And her hands were no longer young. With all the calm she could muster, Oona stepped into her bathroom and looked at herself in a full length mirror. She was dressed as she had been when she left the Past. Over her cape was her voluminous and unruly white hair, the thick black tresses which once framed her glorious face were now white without exception. Even the smooth delicate lines of her brows and eyelashes. Under all that were a whitish blouse and a button up dress of faded gray. But most importantly Oona had aged; had returned to the present, badly injured. Old. Her youthful luster had dimmed, as if it had left her years ago. There were fine wrinkles which graced her eyes and mouth, and faint lines which ran up her graceful though loosened neck. Her face had thinned and she looked to be an unusually beautiful woman in her sixties! And though her innate beauty remained, it was evident that the woman in the mirror had been thoroughly, physically, and emotionally drained by the experience, probably at great cost to her remaining years on Earth. Yet Oona was beaten down but was not beaten. She had emerged stronger as a result of her suffering. Oona took a deep breath and mentally prepared to return to her bedroom and to KC.

In the reflection of the night lights, Oona’s charcoal eyes fired up like embers when she stepped back into her room. And before she could say, “Where’s Louis!” she saw the boy and his mother in a deep and well deserved hug, choked up with sustained tears. At a glance, it seemed that Louis had grown to be “big for his age,” given his relative height to his mother. It was not too extreme, but it was noticeable once the two loosened their embrace. In fact, Louis resembled his older brother more than ever, and even showed fine dark outlines of puberty above his lip and on his face, a bit closer to manhood than he was when he left.

Oona stirred Thankful. The red streak in the girl’s hair had faded away. The four of them joined Charley who had slept on the couch in the séance room. Everyone splayed themselves on that downstairs couch, and huddled together in collective warmth. Stinkly got on the massive couch with the others, at first a bit suspicious of the returned travelers. Outside it was seasonably cold. The whole party cheered their reunion and confirmed the date was April 9, 2011. Oona and KC softly embraced, followed by the group’s generous emissions of oxytocin, the bonding hormone.

Though they had both aged, the calendar proved the travelers were gone for only two weeks. Oona and Louis confirmed their return from the year 1692, a Leap Year, and also confirmed that the calendar days of the week since March first, 2011, were the same as those of 1692.

Thankful and Charley recounted their own time away, when they stayed with the Tooeys in Minnesota, and while their mother stayed locally.

“And no one knew where you were,” said KC to both travelers, but with her eyes on her son. “And now they won’t know where you’ve been or what you’ve done.”

Oona asked Charley to fetch some wine from the upstairs, with two glasses and whatever the kids wanted.

“To what extent had the police tried to track me in the belief that I had taken the boy somewhere?” she asked KC. Oona struggled to keep her mind away from her advanced age. She quietly acknowledged the strokes of extreme and incredible luck which seemed to follow her and the boy into the past and again out of it. Had Anton held our hands? While Angry Indian watched over us?

“Yes, the police did ask about that,” responded KC, “and thought it could be a cult abduction. Then they suggested you and Louis were hiding from a cult, and that was where I probably steered the police. In my heart I only wanted to believe – and help others believe – that if someone found one of you, they would find the other. How I quietly counted the long hours to April ninth.

“And most importantly,” KC continued, “my family is together again, and safe, and my dear and confounding friend Oona is also okay.”

“KC: when did you know the mission succeeded?” asked Oona. “Describe that moment.”

KC smiled girlishly and thought with her eyes to the ceiling before she spoke. “At one moment it was as if my room brightened at Frank’s house. It was very subtle but there was a change. It was excruciating to wait another week before I could return to the house. Something told me we had already won. And then, when I went to the house a week later I knew her suffocating presence had finally been lifted. And it was as if Lucia had never existed, or would never exist, except in the minds of those of us who had had the extreme misfortune of knowing her.”

Oona smiled at her dear friend. “And the specter of Lucia was gone like that? Her overbearing fear mongering finally gone? Kaput?” Oona kept her smile and gaze firmly in place.

“Well yes, kind of,” KC responded.

“And the child’s red streak?”

“Charley and Thankful knew it but we had no communication.”

“Of course,” Oona smiled. “You know I felt so cursed for all that had happened, yet I am so blessed with the comfort I know now.”

KC looked with great love at the “big-for-his-age” son Louis, then turned her face to Oona’s. And their eyes met.

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